After graduating from Brown University, Dhani Harrison was living on Staten Island and considering an offer as a product designer for high-performance-vehicle heavyweight McLaren Automotive. But by the end of his first summer out of school—which also included studies in industrial design and physics at Rhode Island School of Design—Harrison found himself striking out in an entirely different yet wholly familiar direction in his career. Unhinged by the events of September 11th, Harrison decided to devote his energy to the pursuit of music and art, and returned to the recording studio in which he’d grown up.
Teaming up with Jeff Lynne, Harrison served as co-producer on Brainwashed, the Grammy-winning final studio album from George Harrison. Working hand-in-hand with Lynne—and gaining a wealth of knowledge from the legendary producer/musician—inspired him to keep focused on music rather than circle back to industrial design. Around the same time, Harrison also joined forces with his childhood friend Oli Hecks to create the packaging and artwork for Brainwashed, a partnership that would ultimately blossom into the hypercreative art/music collective known as thenewno2.
Borrowing its name from a line of dialogue on TV’s The Prisoner, thenewno2 now includes keyboardist/programmer Paul Hicks (a three-time-Grammy-winning mixer/engineer who’s worked with Coldplay and Placebo and remixed the complete catalogues of the Beatles, John Lennon, and George Harrison—all while under the age of 30), guitarist/keyboardist Jonathan Sadoff (a renowned composer who’s recently scored films like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and A Good Old Fashioned Orgy), and bassist Aaron Older (producer of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’s acclaimed debut album). Featuring Harrison (also a member of Fistful of Mercy with Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur) on vocals and guitar, thenewno2 artfully blends psychedelia, dub, reggae, and electronica into a deeply inventive and irresistibly dreamy sound that Harrison labels “grunge ‘n’ bass’ or “Hawaiian dub-hop.”
Soon after releasing its first full-length album You Are Here in 2008, thenewno2 made its national TV debut by nabbing a highly coveted spot as one of the final musical guests on The Late Show with Conan O’Brien. Over the following year, thenewno2 went on to play Coachella (where Spin crowned them the “best debut performance of the festival”) and Lollapalooza (where the Chicago Sun Times deemed them one of the festival’s most memorable moments). In 2011 thenewno2 released the four-song EP002 (featuring guest appearances by Regina Spektor, Sir Eyes, Crisis, and RZA), then soon returned to the studio to begin working on its sophomore effort thefearofmissingout.
Released in 2012, thefearofmissingout was hailed by American Songwriter as “a reminder that thenewno2 is willing to explore wherever their musical impulses take them, refusing to be pigeonholed into any one genre.” Also praised by NPR Music for radiating a “restless energy that helps it sound both independent-minded and eager to please,” thefearofmissingout helped thenewno2 earn its spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the top 10 must-see bands at 2012’s Lollapalooza. Just a few months after the album’s release, thenewno2 took to the studio once again—this time heading to Abbey Road and joining forces with a 54-piece orchestra to create the score for Oscar-nominated writer/director Richard LaGravenese’s feature film Beautiful Creatures. Selected by LaGravenese for their “distinct, savant-like talent, with equal parts genius and madness,” the composing team of Harrison, Sadoff, and Hicks ended up birthing a new musical genre dubbed “swamptronica” for the Beautiful Creatures score’s moody yet melody-driven mix of Dixie, blues, electronica, and rock and roll.
Along with thenewno2’s endeavors in album-making and score-composing, Harrison has also tirelessly worked to expand the group as an art collective. Not only designing all its own packaging and artwork, thenewno2 directs its own videos, including the wonderfully trippy “Another John Doe” from You Are Here. What’s more, thenewno2 releases each of its offerings through H.O.T. Records, the self-helmed record label that allows thenewno2 to fulfill its ambition of completely and boldly operating independently of the mainstream music industry.